Buying A Toaster Oven – What To Look Out For

toaster oven inside

Nowadays, many people are opting for a toaster oven because it is small and convenient to use. It can do most of the work of a regular oven that it seems pointless to fire up the latter anymore. It is easier to clean with a smaller footprint while your kitchen won’t feel as hot in the summer from all that heat from the big oven. Highly affordable with a wide range of choices, a toaster oven is certainly a smart buy for the kitchen.

But if you are shopping for one, what are the features that you should look out for? Should you get a model with all the bells and whistles or is a basic unit enough for your needs? Are the pricier units the best toaster ovens out there? Below are some factors that you should take into consideration when deciding on the right countertop oven to buy.

Which Size To Buy?

There are various sizes available – commonly advertised as 4, 6 or 8-slice capacity. There are bigger options but these 3 are the most common sizes sold. The 4-slice toaster oven can normally fit a 9″ or 11″ pizza while the 8-slice can accommodate a 13″ pizza although this varies according to models. While the product description would give you the number of slices that the oven can accommodate, bear in mind that bread loaves do come in different sizes. So, a 4-slice model may not necessarily be able to fit 4 slices of bread for larger-sized loaves.

Hence, what is more important is to take note of the interior size. If a pan is included, you can also scrutinize the dimensions for an indication of how much food you can cook per batch.

Naturally, a larger capacity unit would have a larger footprint. Remember that you will also have to allocate space around the unit because toaster ovens do get hot on the outside when in operation. The usual width for the smaller models are around 15″ while the larger 8-slice units will be more than 20″ wide. The smallest that we have come across so far is the Panasonic NB-G110P Flash Xpress which is about 13″ wide and that is because the controls are located below the door rather than the side which makes it narrower.

Digital Controls Or Rotating Knobs?

The basic models will usually have rotating knobs as controls. One knob for cooking function, one for temperature setting and another for the toast shade and/or timer. Knobs are simple to understand and use and may work better for older folks who may have difficulty manipulating buttons with their fingers. However, knobs can be less precise and may have less cooking menus to work with. A basic model with knobs as controls is the Cuisinart TOB-40 Custom Classic Toaster Oven Broiler.

Digital controls, on the other hand, will usually come with a display panel and touch pads to select the cooking function and temperature level like the Black & Decker CTO6335S Stainless Steel Countertop Convection Oven. You will most probably be working with up and down arrow buttons to get to your desired setting. The advantage is that the setting can be more precise and there can be more pre-programmed menus built-in.

But digital controls can also have its drawbacks. Each press of the button may give you an annoying beep while the display may be hard to read if there is no backlit light. You may also need to press a button numerous times to get to the setting that you want which is cumbersome.

Will The Rack Auto-Eject?

Not a deal breaker, but having the rack automatically sliding out when the door is opened is a big plus. It is more convenient, especially when it comes to removing your food when it is done. By then, the rack would be too hot to touch and this where the auto-eject feature comes in handy. The Breville BOV800XL Smart Oven is one model that has this practical feature.

What Functions Do You Need?

Generally, the less functions available, the cheaper would be the unit. At the very basic, you can get one for less than $30 from a reputable brand like the Black and Decker TO1303SB. With just 4 functions – broil, bake, toast and warm – it may be sufficient for 2 people to cook a few simple meals.

But you can also pay more and get other functions including convection, rotisserie and grill. The Hamilton Beach 31103 Countertop Oven has both convection and rotisserie functions but is costs about $130 at the time of writing. Manufacturers have certainly expanded on the functions of toaster ovens to make them closer to the capability of a regular oven. But our advice is pay for only what you need. If you are using it mainly for toasting and reheating frozen food, don’t be tempted by the variety of functions that you would never use.

Is It Easy To Remove The Crumb Tray?

Almost all toaster ovens nowadays would have a removable crumb tray for easy clean-up. But the question is how easy it is to take it out to remove the crumbs?

The preferred design is to have front access to the crumb tray. That means there should be a drawer-like handle right at the bottom to easily pull out the tray like the one found on the Breville BOV450XL. This is more convenient than having to open the oven door to wriggle out the tray from the interior. Either way, the tray must be a good fit and easy to remove and put back when needed.

Does It Have A Nonstick Interior?

This is a matter of personal preference. A nonstick interior is easy to clean with a damp cloth. A simple wipe is all it takes to keep the interior spotless. But for others, a nonstick coating is a big no-no as it could be harmful to the health.

So, if you want a healthier option, you would need to look around because many units now come with a nonstick interior. The Waring Pro TCO650 Digital Convection Oven is one model that has no nonstick coating. Another would be Oster TSSTTVXLDG Extra Large Digital Toaster Oven.

Conclusion

All in all, a toaster oven is a kitchen appliance that is worth the investment. Apart from toasting bread, you can use it for many other things that it will end up being one of the most used items in the kitchen. In fact, some people use it more than the microwave and big oven. It is simple to operate, quick to heat up and food do come out tasting good.

The only thing you need to take note of is your needs when you go shopping for a toaster oven. There are just too many models in the market now with a wide range of prices that many prospective buyers end up feeling confused as to which to buy. Narrow down your choices with your list of wants and preferences and you will have a better idea of which model would be ideal for you.

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